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Home » Sunday » Technology

‘Honesty’ app a hit

FIZZING with boyish exuberance, Saudi programmer Zainalabdin Tawfiq could be mistaken for a college freshman, but the popularity of his “honesty” app has shone a spotlight on the conservative kingdom’s nascent tech scene.

Tawfiq catapulted to fame when he took time out of his day job as a business analyst last year to develop an anonymous messaging tool called Sarahah — honesty in Arabic — that topped the charts for app downloads.

Initially conceived as a tool for soliciting bluntly frank workplace feedback, Sarahah has found its way into the smartphones of millennials worldwide, even as critics have raised alarm about trolling and privacy issues.

“Sarahah is the digital equivalent of an old-school suggestion box,” 29-year-old Tawfiq said, adding that it is built on the premise that stripping users of their identity promotes ruthless honesty.

The app has a frugal design and a simple prompt that encourages users to “leave a constructive message :)”, with the recipient not allowed to reply but only share it on social media or block the sender.

Its mass appeal stems from the appetite in the Arab world — notorious for online censorship — for unfiltered platforms for expression, although Tawfiq said it is popular in the West.

Such has been its power to knock down social barriers that obstruct free speech that one user described it as an app where you can “hit enter on comments you would have otherwise backspaced.”

Sarahah so far has 85 million registered users, and rocketed to the top of the Apple app store in some countries, ahead of heavyweights such as Snapchat and Instagram.


 

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